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Funk - Released July 12, 1971 | Westbound Records Inc.
It starts with a crackle of feedback shooting from speaker to speaker and a voice intoning, "Mother Earth is pregnant for the third time, for y'all have knocked her up" and talking about rising "above it all or drown in my own sh*t." This could only have been utterly bizarre back in 1971 and it's no less so decades later; though the Mothership was well on its way already, Maggot Brain really helped it take off. The instrumental title track is the key reason to listen, specifically for Eddie Hazel's lengthy, mind-melting solo. George Clinton famously told Hazel to play "like your momma had just died," and the resulting evocation of melancholy and sorrow doesn't merely rival Jimi Hendrix's work, but arguably bests a lot of it. Accompanied by another softer guitar figure providing gentle rhythm for the piece, the end result is simply fantastic, an emotional apocalypse of sound. Maggot Brain is bookended by another long number, "Wars of Armageddon," a full-on jam from the band looping in freedom chants and airport-departure announcements to the freak-out. In between are a number of short pieces, finding the collective merrily cooking up some funky stew of the slow and smoky variety. There are folky blues and gospel testifying on "Can You Get to That" (one listen and a lot of Primal Scream's mid-'90s career is instantly explained) and wry but warm reflections on interracial love on "You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks," its drum hits distorted to give a weird electronic edge to the results. "Super Stupid" is a particular killer, pounding drums and snarling guitar laying down the boogie hard and hot, while "Hit It and Quit It" has a great chorus and Bernie Worrell getting in a fun keyboard solo to boot. © Ned Raggett /TiVo
Funk - Released February 24, 1970 | Westbound Records Inc.
Funkadelic's self-titled 1970 debut is one of the group's best early- to mid-'70s albums. Not only is it laden with great songs -- "I'll Bet You" and "I Got a Thing..." are obvious highlights -- but it retains perhaps a greater sense of classic '60s soul and R&B than any successive George Clinton-affiliated album. Recording for the Detroit-based Westbound label, at the time Funkadelic were in the same boat as psychedelic soul groups such as the Temptations, who had just recorded their landmark Cloud Nine album across town at Motown, and other similar groups. Yet no group had managed to effectively balance big, gnarly rock guitars with crooning, heartfelt soul at this point in time quite like Funkadelic. Clinton's songs are essentially conventional soul songs in the spirit of Motown or Stax -- steady rhythms, dense arrangements, choruses of vocals -- but with a loud, overdriven, fuzzy guitar lurking high in the mix. And when Clinton's songs went into their chaotic moments of jamming, there was no mistaking the Hendrix influence. Furthermore, Clinton's half-quirky, half-trippy ad libs during "Mommy, What's a Funkadelic?" and "What Is Soul" can be mistaken for no one else -- they're pure-cut P-Funk. Successive albums portray Funkadelic drifting further toward rock, funk, and eventually disco, especially once Bernie Worrell began playing a larger role in the group. Never again would the band be this attuned to its '60s roots, making self-titled release a revealing and unique record that's certainly not short on significance, clearly marking the crossroads between '60s soul and '70s funk. © Jason Birchmeier /TiVo
Funk - Released July 1, 1970 | Westbound Records Inc.
It's one of the best titles in modern musical history, for song and for album, and as a call to arms mentally and physically the promise of funk was never so perfectly stated. If it were just a title then there'd be little more to say, but happily, Free Your Mind lives up to it throughout as another example of Funkadelic getting busy and taking everyone with it. The title track itself kicks things off with rumbling industrial noises and space alien sound effects, before a call-and-response chant between deep and chirpy voices brings the concept to full life. As the response voices say, "The kingdom of heaven is within!" The low and dirty groove rumbles along for ten minutes of dark fun, with Bernie Worrell turning in a great keyboard solo toward the end -- listening to it, one gets the feeling that if Can were this naturally funky, they'd end up sounding like this. From there the band makes its way through a total of six songs, ranging from the good to astoundingly great. "Funky Dollar Bill" is the other standout track from the proceedings, with a great, throw-it-down chorus and rhythm and a sharp, cutting lyric that's as good to think about as it is to sing out loud. The closing "Eulogy and Light," meanwhile, predates Prince with its backward masking and somewhat altered version of the Lord's Prayer and Psalm 23. At other points, even if the song is a little more straightforward, there's something worthwhile about it, like the random stereo panning and Eddie Hazel's insane guitar soloing on "I Wanna Know If It's Good for You," with more zoned and stoned keyboard work from Worrell to top things off. The amount of drugs going down for these sessions in particular must have been notable, but the end results make it worthy. © Ned Raggett /TiVo
Funk - Released May 22, 1972 | Westbound Records Inc.
A double album and worth every minute of it, America Eats Its Young makes for a freaky, funky, and aware good time. Compared to the endless slabs of double-album dreck that came out around the same time from all sources, here Funkadelic brought life, soul, and much more to the party. With George Clinton credited only for arranging and producing, here the mad cast he brought together went all out. Bernie Worrell in particular now had a new importance, credited as co-arranger with Clinton as well as handling string and horn charts on a number of songs. His surging, never-stop keyboards, meanwhile, took control from the start, with his magnificent lead break on the opening "You Hit the Nail on the Head" making for one of the best performances ever on Hammond organ. Bootsy Collins (credited as William) is also somewhere in the crowd on bass and vocals, while old favorites like Eddie Hazel and Tiki Fulwood, among many others, can be found. Perhaps to fill in the time, a few numbers from the first Parliament album, Osmium, two years before cropped up, namely "Loose Booty" and the hilariously sleazy "I Call My Baby Pussycat," here performed with a noticeably slower, dirty groove. The straightforward social call to arms appears throughout, with one song title saying it all -- "If You Don't Like the Effects, Don't Produce the Cause." Other winners include the vicious title track, combining everything from mysterious, doom-laden voices and weeping wails to slow, sad music, and the concluding "Wake Up," while "Everybody Is Going to Make It This Time" is a lovely, gospel-informed ballad that heads for the skies and hearts. There are more mundane concerns as well, such as "There Was My Girl," a quirky weeper, and the weird if smoothly delivered "Miss Lucifer's Love," with more than one target in mind. © Ned Raggett /TiVo
Funk - Released July 10, 1974 | Westbound Records Inc.
Expanding back out to a more all-over-the-place lineup -- about 15 or so people this time out -- Funkadelic got a bit more back on track with Standing on the Verge of Getting It On. Admittedly, George Clinton repeats a trick from America Eats Its Young via another re-recording of an Osmium track, namely leadoff cut "Red Hot Mama." However, starting as it does with a hilarious double soliloquy (with the first voice sounding like the happier brother of Sir Nose d'Voidoffunk) and coming across with a fierce new take, it's a good omen for Standing on the Verge as a whole. Eddie Hazel's guitar work in particular is just plain bad-ass; after his absence from Cosmic Slop, it's good to hear him fully back in action with Bernie Worrell, Cordell Mosson, Gary Shider, and the rest. In general, compared to the sometimes too polite Cosmic Slop, Standing on the Verge is a full-bodied, crazy mess in the best possible way, with heavy funk jams that still smoke today while making a lot of supposedly loud and dangerous rock sound anemic. Check out "Alice in My Fantasies" if a good example is needed -- the whole thing is psychotic from the get-go, with vocals as much on the edge as the music -- or the wacky, wonderful title track. There are quieter moments as well, but this time around with a little more bite to them, like the woozy slow jam of "I'll Stay," which trips out along the edges just enough while the song makes its steady way along. In an unlikely but effective turn, meanwhile, "Jimmy's Got a Little Bit of Bitch in Him" is a friendly, humorous song about a gay friend; given the rote homophobia of so much later hip-hop, it's good to hear some founding fathers had a more open-minded view. © Ned Raggett /TiVo
Funk - Released July 9, 1973 | Westbound Records Inc.
With a much more stripped-down version of the band, if the credits are to be believed (five regular members total, not counting any vocalists), Funkadelic continued its way through life with Cosmic Slop. A slightly more scattershot album than the group's other early efforts, with generally short tracks (only two break the five-minute barrier) and some go-nowhere ballads, Cosmic Slop still has plenty to like about it, not least because of the monstrous title track. A bitter, heartbreaking portrait of a family on the edge, made all the more haunting and sad by the sweet vocal work -- imagine an even more mournful "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" -- the chorus is a killer, with the devil invited to the dance while the band collectively fires up the funk. Elsewhere, the band sounds like it's more interested in simply hitting a good groove and enjoying it, and why not? If introductory track "Nappy Dugout" relies more on duck calls and whistles than anything else to give it identity, it's still a clap-your-hands/stomp-your-feet experience, speeding up just a little toward the end. As for the bandmembers themselves, Bernie Worrell still takes the general lead thanks to his peerless keyboard work, but the guitar team of Gary Shider and Ron Bykowski and the rhythm duo of Tyrone Lampkin and Cordell Mosson aren't any slouches, either. George Clinton again seems to rely on the role of ringleader more than anything else, but likely that's him behind touches like distorted vocals. Certainly it's a trip to hear the deep, spaced-out spoken word tale on "March to the Witch's Castle," a harrowing picture of vets returning from Vietnam -- and then realizing that Rush ripped off that approach for a song on its Caress of Steel album a year or two later! © Ned Raggett /TiVo
Funk - Released October 27, 2017 | Ace Records
Funk - Released April 21, 1975 | Westbound Records Inc.
One of Funkadelic's goofiest releases, Let's Take It to the Stage also contains more P-Funk all-time greats as well, making for a grand balance of the serious and silly. Perhaps the silliest is at the end -- there's not much else one can call the extended oompah/icing rink start of "Atmosphere." The title track is as much a call to arms as "Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow" is, but with a more direct musical performance and a more open nod to party atmospheres (not to mention the source of one of Andrew Dice Clay's longest-running bits). The targets of the band's good-natured wrath are, in fact, other groups -- "Hey, Fool and the Gang! Let's take it to the stage!" There's no mistaking the track that immediately follows makes it even more intense -- "Get Off Your Ass and Jam" kicks in with one bad-ass drum roll and then scorches the damn place down, from guitar solo to the insanely funky bass from Cordell "Boogie" Mosson. It may only be two and a half minutes long, but it alone makes the album a classic. Hearing Bootsy Collins' unmistakable vocals is usually enough to get anything on the crazy tip, but "Be My Beach" (Collins' Funkadelic vocal debut) just makes it all the more fun, as does the overall air of silly romance getting nuttier as it goes. "Good to Your Earhole" sets the outrageous mood just right -- it's one of the band's tightest monsters of funk, guitars sprawling all over the place even as the heavy-hitting rhythm doesn't let one second of groove get lost. Of course, there's also one totally notorious number to go with it, but "No Head, No Backstage Pass" has one of the craziest rhythms on the whole album, not to mention lip-smackingly nutty lines delivered with the appropriate leer. © Ned Raggett /TiVo
Funk - Released May 24, 2005 | Westbound Records Inc.
Funkadelic's commercial peak occurred during the late '70s, when George Clinton and company issued several hit albums for the Warner Brothers label. And it's that era that serves as the basis for countless Funkadelic compilations, while the group's earlier, more hard rocking releases (for Westbound) receive not nearly the same attention. This is a shame, as this period is just as good (and arguably, even better) than Funkadelic's latter, more renowned work, as evidenced by the 16-track compilation Finest. It wasn't until a year or two after the death of legendary funk-rock trailblazer Jimi Hendrix that Funkadelic truly came into their own -- and deservingly, inherited Jimi's vacated funk-rock throne. Covering a five-year period (1970's Funkadelic through 1975's Let's Take It to the Stage), Finest may be the best-assembled Funkadelic collection from this period yet, as both renowned band standards share space with several oft-overlooked tracks, which make their debut on any compilation. The early tracks "I Got a Thing" and "I Wanna Know if It's Good to You" show the bandmembers still honing their eventual rich 'n' funky sound, before they hit their stride with selections from the classic Maggot Brain album. As a result, you get a healthy sampling of some of the best funk the '70s had to offer, including "Hit It and Quit It," "You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks," "Loose Booty," "Cosmic Slop," "Red Hot Mama," and "Get Off Your Ass and Jam." The only disappointment is that a truncated version of the guitar showcase "Maggot Brain" is included, rather than the ten-plus-minute original version. Regardless, Finest is an exceptional sampler for those discovering the wild and wacky universe of Funkadelic. © Greg Prato /TiVo
Funk - Released September 21, 1976 | Westbound Records Inc.
Some leftover jams, songs, and funk pieces from the Funkadelic era. George Clinton was in the midst of moving Funkadelic to another label, and the Westbound folk released a bunch of vault material to get another Funkadelic album on the market. There were still some fine cuts, but the random element prevented it from being a great album because it lacked the thematic organization and vision Clinton provided for the concept LPs. © Ron Wynn /TiVo
R&B - Released January 1, 2007 | Hip-O Select
Funk - Released May 14, 2002 | Westbound Records Inc.
Toys features about 50 minutes of previously unreleased Funkadelic tracks from the early '70s, about evenly divided between proper songs and jams. The availability of such a large chunk of recordings in excellent sound quality from their prime might seem like a huge blessing for their devoted fans, but while in general it is of considerable interest for Funkadelic fanatics, more casual funk listeners should be wary of this on several accounts. First, much of this material sounds on the unfinished side, even on some of the cuts with vocals. One track, "Wars of Armageddon" [Karaoke Version], is a little on the marginal side even for major P-Funk fans, as it's a "previously unissued under-dub." Overall, it's a little like getting a very high-quality bootleg of works in progress, though it can be fairly pointed out that even some actual Funkadelic albums had songs that sometimes sounded like works in progress. But if you are the sort of fan who likes to peek into the hidden underbelly of a major band's foundation, the CD has its merits. Chief among these are the significantly different versions of "You Can't Miss What You Can't Measure" (here titled "Heart Trouble") and "The Goose" (here under its original title, "The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg"), though the aforementioned "Wars of Armageddon" differs from its official release only in the absence of sound effects. Otherwise, the tracks tend toward drifting jams that are more notable for the funk-psychedelic playing than the songs themselves. Even one of the cuts with vocals, "Talk About Jesus," has few lyrics other than a few female singers intoning the title over and over; another, the brief "2 Dollars & 2 Dimes," has nothing in the way of a vocal other than George Clinton uttering a few typically wacky proclamations. Also on the CD is a 1973 video clip (playable on PC or Mac computers) of the band, in typically odd and flamboyant costume, romping around New York to "Cosmic Slop." © Richie Unterberger /TiVo